COP27 - The ICRC's call to strengthen climate action in conflict settings

COP27 - The ICRC's call to strengthen climate action in conflict settings

Climate change and environmental degradation threaten the survival of humanity. Major and urgent political efforts to mitigate climate change are critical to avert the most devastating consequences of this crisis on people and their environment. Even if ambitious mitigation measures are implemented, climate disruption will continue to severely affect people’s lives for several generations. Scaling up climate adaptation and the finance to support it are therefore equally essential to limit the humanitarian impacts of climate change.
Article 24 October 2022

Countries enduring armed conflict and other violence – the vast majority of which are among the world's least developed countries (LDCs) – are some of the most vulnerable to the climate crisis. Their capacity to adapt to a changing climate is drastically limited by the disruptive impact that wars have on societies. Their acute vulnerability and severe capacity constraints should, in theory, ensure that they are prioritized for climate action. In practice, countries in conflict are among those most neglected when it comes to climate action and finance. Adapted climate action in these locations is critical to reduce humanitarian needs, preserve development gains and avoid systemic breakdown and lasting fragility.

Ahead of COP27, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) urges parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the governing bodies of the Conference of Parties (COP) to make three commitments to ensure that people living in conflict settings are not left behind:

1. Acknowledge the high vulnerability to climate risks of countries enduring conflict due to their limited adaptive capacity.

The international community has made commitments to provide support to countries that are highly vulnerable to climate change. Most states enduring armed conflict and violence fit into this category. In fact, the vast majority of the states deemed most vulnerable and least ready to adapt to climate change are mired in conflict. This is not because climate change directly causes conflict. Rather, climate change amplifies the humanitarian needs triggered by conflict, while conflict increases the fragility of institutions, essential services, infrastructure and governance that are critical to help people cope with and adapt to a changing climate. A more conscious and explicit recognition of this unique vulnerability would allow greater focus on pathways to sustainably address their needs and ensure adequate and urgent climate action in these locations.


  • Acknowledge and draw attention to the unique vulnerability to climate risks of countries and communities enduring conflict, as this is essential to ensure adequate climate action in these settings.

2. Live up to international commitments to bolster climate action in countries that are particularly vulnerable to climate change, which entails strengthening climate action in countries enduring conflict and violence.

Support to help communities adapt to a changing climate is particularly weak in places enduring conflict because of the challenges associated with long-term programming in these environments. In the UNFCCC and the Paris Agreement, developed states have agreed to provide support in the form of finance and expertise to countries, including many of those affected by armed conflict and violence that are also vulnerable to the effects of climate change, notably the LDCs, Small Island Developing States and African countries.4 In parallel, the Sustainable Development Goals are built on a commitment to leave no one behind.5 Living up to these commitments requires tailored approaches to reach and support people in unstable settings, so they can cope with and adapt to a changing climate.


  • Scale up efforts to reinforce climate action in countries affected by conflict, particularly by strengthening knowledge and practice to prepare for, respond to and build resilience against loss and damage associated with climate change in these locations. 
  • Ensure that climate action not only reaches countries enduring conflict, but also the communities that are the most vulnerable, even if they live in unstable and hard-to-access areas. Locally driven climate-change adaptation and disaster risk reduction that complement centralized efforts are essential in this regard. 
  • Address the structural divisions and silos within organizations that prevent informed, conflict-sensitive climate action.

3. Ensure that climate action is adequately supported by fit-for-purpose and accessible climate finance.

Two critical imbalances characterize climate finance and severely limit the potential for adequate climate action in fragile and conflict-affected countries. First, there is a significant disparity between the provision of funding to stable middle-income countries and the world's LDCs, a category in which conflict- or violence-affected countries are over-represented. Despite the Paris Agreement's commitment to increase support for LDCs, between 2016 and 2020, they only received some 17 per cent of the total climate funding accounted for by the Organisation for Economic and Co operation and Development (OECD), with 70 per cent of all climate finance provided to middle-income countries (and only 22 per cent going to the 57 states defined as fragile by the OECD).

Among the group of LDCs, funding is not equally distributed and the most fragile countries tend to receive the least funding. Within countries, climate finance often does not reach conflict-affected areas, particularly when these territories are not under state control, which excludes millions of people. This not only reflects the fact that conflict-affected zones in a country are often excluded to mitigate risks, but also that just a fraction of international climate finance is committed to local action. In addition, although states committed in the Paris Agreement to ensuring a greater balance between finance for climate-change adaptation and finance for climate-change mitigation, adaptation financing still lags far behind. To close the gaps in climate financing, there need to be sustained efforts to revisit the current criteria for accessing climate finance and the methodologies for assessing risk, and specialized ways of working in places affected by conflict need to be developed. When discussing loss and damage, it is important to ensure that similar gaps in financing are not inadvertently created.


  • Review how the financing mechanisms are governed to ensure that risk aversity does not exclude millions of people from receiving much-needed support and consider introducing specialized funding windows that allow for differentiated programming that reaches the most vulnerable and remote communities.
  • Provide the financing mechanisms with guidance on policies and regulations that allow reasonable flexibility to enable action in fragile and conflict- affected settings.
  • Enable the provision of climate adaptation finance at multiple scales to encourage both large- and small-scale projects that address context-specific needs. In conflict settings, enable delivery by diverse partners by simplifying the processes for receiving funds and by providing support to actors with the access, mandate and expertise to operate in conflict-affected settings to navigate existing opportunities to access finance.